Monday, April 30, 2012

For The Love of Indra's Net

I love comic books. Given a chance between saving the world from impending disaster and reading a Back-issue of Doga, I would chose the latter. In fact, recently I poured out my love for sequential art, especially Indian here Thanks to indulgent cousins, DD1 Advertisements and frequent Train Trips I started reading comics at a very very early age. It began with an image of a man sitting in a drum of Fevicol while a train heads towards him, and continued with heroes battling villains who were either Benarasi Thugs, were masters of Sound of Voo-Doo or had peculiar names like Shacura.

It helped a lot that my parents were fans of Asterix and Tintin, my grandfather had a sizeable collection of Paraag (the now non-existent magazines in which he contributed cartoons and poems time to time) and that my Maternal Uncles had dutifully collected and preserved hundreds of issues of Indrajal Comics, with several comics (more often than not of the same series) painstakingly bound together and labeled properly.


My brother and I had found these neatly stacked bundles of treasure on moving to Lucknow, where my Nani Ji has her ancestral home. They were packed tightly in huge water-drums and kept in a safe storeroom . Needless to say we took these books under our shelter as quickly as we could, they promised to provide entertainment in long summer vacations.
Although none of these comics had the heroes I was used to reading at that time, there was no Chacha Chaudhary, no Raaket, no Dhruv, no Parmanu. In fact they were my first introduction to Betaal (I did not know for a long time that he was called 'Phantom'), Mandrake the Magician, Flash Gordon, and Bahadur.

One of the first 'Indian' Comic book heroes, and one of the best

Betaal, Chalta Phirta Pret (The Ghost who Walks) is an interesting Superhero for a lot of reasons (if we ignore the racial overtones of the comic books), he is one of the few heroes wherein the family business in itself is Hero-Giri, when one Betaal dies, his son immediately takes his place, and this is a tradition that has continued for many centuries, it gives the comic books a very wide canvas, there can be a story about the medieval times, about the victorian age or even the world wars and there would have to be a Betaal present in each of them. Also, Betaal has no 'Super' Powers, he has only his two fists and two (always well drawn by the artist) Guns. He has an army of 'Poison pygmies', he has a Pet wolf ('Sir aap ye Kutta is Plane par nahi le ja sakte' 'Ye Kutta Nahi Bhediya Hai') and has multiple homes in prime locations in the jungle and around the world. Besides, once someone becomes 'Phantom' his face is Betaal, his face is NEVER shown by the artist, there is no alter-ego. There is just a man in a mask or a very convenient hat and overcoat.

Mandrake too is unconventional, his only 'powers' are Hypnotism and reliance on Lothar's Strong-man abilities (much like Chacha Chaudhary and Sabu), although his hypnotism is very real, his comics are not devoid of the Supernatural. He is Godfather to a set of Alien twins, he studied magic at a place with a LOT of magic, and has often battled strange creatures, yet the 'setting' was very human. Mandrake worked at a secret organization where his Boss was actually his Cook in a secret identity (wouldn't we all like our Bosses coming home to cook for us), he had a Rogue's gallery of criminals he frequently encountered, and his biggest arch-enemy was a mysterious Terrorist organization called 8, and not some mutant superpowered being.

Also, he has the best house in the world.

Even Better Than This

And of course, there was Bahadur. A character created specifically for Indrajal Comics by the Legendary Aabid Surti sa'ab, he battled what was a raging problem (especially in central India) at that time - Dacoits. He has no Police backing to help him, all he has is the Citizens Security Force (and Bela). Bahadur initially fought dacoits with trusty/rusty rifles, braving the wastelands where his town Jaigarh was with sharp senses and a dead-shot aim. But later his missions went bigger, I remember one distinctly where Bahadur and Bela went aboard a ship to stop some spies. I missed out writing about him in my post about Comic book characters who should have movies on them, but Bahadur, for the sheer legacy that he has deserves celluloid space.

Then there were other characters like Flash, Garth, Rip Kirby, I can keep on writing about them for a long long time, but I would like to shift focus back to the medium - Indrajal comics.

Firstly, all the comics were published in many languages, and thankfully the collection that my Uncles had was totally in Hindi. For a 7 year old kid (in the mid 90s, not today) comics became a lot more accessible if they were in a language that he could understand. Then the comics were printed on 'big' paper and thus were very very easy to read. All the volumes had attractive covers, and even at that age I loved the charm of the old advertisements published in the comics.




It has Kapil Dev on a girl's cycle, and still it doesn't Jar
Plus, there were the 'side features', my favourite being the exploits of a young kid called 'Gunakar' who never spoke (although other characters in the comic did), the many features by Parag regular Shahab, and the occasional Timpa comics (Bengal's answer to Tintin, perhaps) which were serialized as added comics to volumes which had lesser material and needed something to complete their quota of pages.

'Gunaker! Not Henry' 

Timpa in fact gave me one of my favourite lines from a comic book, when Timpa's uncle (akin to Captain Haddock) confronts a villain who is up to no good at a Water Pipe, he is hit hard on the face by his boot, when Timpa asks how does he feel he replies defiantly 'Dekha kaise maine apna chehra uske boot par de maara!' and later in the comic book he is asked by Timpa to accompany him again to the Water Pipe he says 'Napoleon ko bhi koi Waterloo le jaata hai kya phir se? Sab bade logon ki zindagi mein Water ne kuchh gadbad ki hai, Napolean ka Waterloo, Nixon ke liye Watergate aur mere liye Water Pipe'


But here I go, digressing again. This post should be about Indrajal comics as a whole. About what a great piece of pop culture history that they are. And it seems rather surprising today that they were published by Bennett and Coleman, a group of Newspapers who are today more famous for gratuitous nudity in their papers and paid news. Perhaps that is the reason the comics closed down (after an impressive run of more than 800 issues).

My childhood like many others owes a lot to these slim colourful volumes, although there was only one Mainstream 'Indian' Hero in them, they did a lot in cultivating the love that I have for comic books today. Today thanks to the internet, and thanks to a lot of like minded people who act on the internet like a collective entity are out to preserve the memories of their childhood. Many Indrajal comics can be easily read/downloaded online, and there are still people who are willing to sell Mint-condition comics (I for one would be a willing buyer).

One fine day my parents (although themselves big fans of the comics, my mother too was a regular collector of Indrajal) decided that the huge stack of comic books lying around in our house was a big distraction from studies and all the comics were shipped back to my Nani ji's house, sadly never to be seen again (My brother and I had salvaged a few, hidden them, but frequent house-shiftings have ensured that they too have disappeared without a trace).

Recently I asked my mother if there was any chance that after almost 16 years, if I could get those comics back, but to my disappointment and happiness one of my uncles has taken all the comics back with him for his kids (who are at the age I was when I started reading Indrajal), thus ensuring a new set of kids get to know the important legacy of Betaal, Mandrake, Bahadur, so that even today somewhere a young kid would be reading Indrajal comics during his summer vacations.

Monday, April 16, 2012

The Invention of Bad Literature

Almost seven years ago, around the same time that I was giving IIT-JEE for the second time in the hope of clearing it, I came across a book review about a new author, an IITian, who had written about his experiences in a slim volume called '5 Point Someone : What Not to Do at IIT'. Now I don't know whether the three lettered acronym in the name was added deliberately as a marketing tool or the author had other intentions, what I do know is that loads and loads of people bought the book thinking that a) It would help them prepare for IITJEE in someway or b) It would help them prepare for Life at an IIT (or as Chetan Bhagat would say, OneLife@TheIIT). One of my friends from the coaching institute I was in had fallen for this, and he had lamented while giving me his copy of the book 'Yaar it has everything in it except for how to crack the ruddy exam!'

I went through the book, and I liked it. The characters were well etched out, it had a simple yet effective story, although it used literary license in floating over entire 6-8 months period of time, it was quite enjoyable. And when I went to BHU, I recommended the book heavily, only to get a common feedback, 'Dude, there's an entire chapter with SEX in it'

Pictured : Book With SEX in it
'But then...have you never...oh, never mind!'

To his credit, Chetan Bhagat introduced the concept of Fiction to a huge market base who had read it till now only because it was a compulsory subject in school, scores of students who had till then read only IIT JEE Preparation books for 2 to 4 years of their lives. And he tapped this market quite successfully. First of all he set a price of Rs 95/-, which made this highly price elastic base purchase a book that cost less than a multiplex movie ticket ("What! Rs 400/- for a 250 Page book! Achcha ye kitaab padhne se CAT mein madad milegei? Nahi Pakka Bata!)

An year later I awaited the publishing of Bhagat's next novel, stylized as ON@TCC. And, it sucked.

Jab Phone ki Ghanti Bajti hai to Kehte hain Hello!
Although my bone to pick is not entirely with Bhagat Babu, I mean he did kick open a door that lead to a million other hacks thinking that they too can write. No wait, yes Bhagat is directly responsible! He wrote a story about 3 College friends surviving four years in a tough environment, and he made a lot of people sit up and say 'Hey, if he can do that, I can do it too! I too have been to an IIT/NIT/PEC/BITS/DCE...'

And so post 2005, we have a slew of books lined up in Crosswords and Landmarks under a section called 'New Indian Fiction' by writers who crap out a book a month by writing about some mundane chapter of their lives or fantasizing about what could have been (etc). There is this particular author who likes having Really Really Long Names for his books. Sample this

'Of course I love you, until I find someone better...'

'Now that you are rich...let us fall in love'

'She broke up I didn't, I just kissed someone else'

'You were my crush, until I found someone better'

The above are not lines from the books, those are actual names, as if each book is competing with the previous one over who has the longest...

And what amazes me even more is that most of these books are 'co-authored' by someone else too. I mean, I did not know that it took two to write a bad book!

Then there is a writer who wrote his first book as a Roman a Clef and did not even bother changing the name of the protagonist. His second book was this

The Title had NOTHING Whatsover to do with the book
On a bet I picked up a book called 'Rock and Roll Journey' or something like it and read the back-page summary, the first line of which I produce here unchanged 'All his efforts to WHO the girl he loved failed', I mean, come on! At least do a rudimentary proof reading of the material! I am no grammar nazi, but I do not like to see a spelling mistake. I flipped a few pages to see at least two of them covered with song lyrics, and not original song lyrics, they were songs by Nirvana. It was like the writer was shouting, Yes Yes, I am cool, I sing Nirvana.'

Most of these writers follow the Dare To Think Beyond... model of the great Arindam Chaudhari, and do not target only hapless hopeful IITians, the books are marketed as an FMS book or a MDI book. I read a particular book written by an FMS student at the home of a friend of mine who was preparing for FMS, it was called 'If God Went to a B-School, Would love follow him there?' It was another case of the title of the book having nothing at all to do with the story line.

Recently a friend of mine sent some of his material to a publisher who replied 'You should try and write Selling stuff you know, I want to see the cash registers ringing, write about college life!' What adds to the nightmare is that when the friend and I visited a famous comic book house during the World Book Fair at Pragati maidan, and when we talked about submitting ideas for comics, we were advised 'Write a 200 or 250 page book, make it like what Chetan Bhagat writes, and I guarantee you we will publish it, you know he makes 2 to 3 crores a month! Won't you like that?'

Personally, I feel that a book about College life should be more of Rag Darbari and Catch 22 for it to capture the madness of 4 years (2 Years in case of a B-School), and not a factory produced product. I am waiting for someone to write about their college life, and please, NOT make it cliched.




Thursday, December 1, 2011

Cinema Part 1

It started with the image of a young man sliding down a block of ice, or perhaps with trying to emulate another thin and small guy by holding a small plastic guy by holding in my hand, or with a bearded guy wearing a turban, walking in a sparse arid land, speaking words in urdu that I had trouble understanding. These are the three most distinct images that I remember from over twenty years ago which started my love for cinema.

We lived in Sonpur and Papa rented video cassettes from Patna, a different city altogether. My brother and I benefited greatly by my father’s own interest in movies and his interest in passing on his interests to us. So along with movies starring young khans whose idea of teenage rebellion was singing loudly while riding bikes on a high speed or by defying their parents to marry the girls of their choice, we were treated to silent films with tooth brush moustached gentlemen eating leather shoes with style and panache, and a fat and thin duo who had the funniest accidents I had ever seen. They frequently walked into walls, stepped on pitch forks, or had paint buckets dropped on their heads.

But the other ‘English Films’ I had trouble appreciating, because of the simple fact that all they spoke seemed gibberish to me. Hindi films had much more appeal, especially with the appearance of a hero who knew ‘martial arts’ and who could ‘do judo karate’.

‘He does all his own stunts.’
‘But all the heroes do their own stunts dada!’
‘No! Only HE does his own stunts.’
‘Even…’
‘Yes.’
‘Mithun Chakraborty can break walls with his hands.’
‘They are paper walls, only HE can break real bricks with his bare hands.’
And that is where the conversation would end. I always considered my brother to be an infinite reservoir of knowledge, and whatever he told me had to be correct.

The man who slid down stairs on a block of ice took backseat (at least for a couple of years) because even though he had acted in a movie with a friendly ghost and an awesome cricket match, he had taken to stalking pretty women with dazzling smiles. I did not completely understand how he was the villain because he sang all the songs in the movie, but in the end it was clear that he was the guy with bad intentions.

But HE never disappointed, along with a body builder actor who had the worst voice in the world, he kicked, boxed and kick-boxed villains with a hundred percent success rate. He flew in the air with two guns in his hands, and shot the goons with deadly accuracy. Trying to imitate him this way resulted in a broken sofa in my house.

Movies confused me at times, the Gentleman Raju was a stalker, the friendly ghost was killed by the action hero. The only consistent villain was the bald man with a booming voice. And the only consistent hero was a thin and short guy, who cheated me by appearing in the beginning of a movie called Damini and not staying on for the whole deal.

The early 90s was a time when the movies were simple, all songs were shot either in the rain, or in the mountains. The villain and/or the father of the heroin had a huge house with staircases and in the end everything exploded. All the songs were antakshari friendly. Ronit Roy was a successful band master and or an eight year old, college promised to be a place where there was a lecture on Romance (and Love and Dance).

The ice block boy redeemed himself to me two years later thrice, once by dueling with Javed Jaffrey on the streets of Bombay verbally, with an awesome song in a movie that I did not see, and then by acting in a movie where in a rare instance he loses the girl, but not before bringing a small town Don to tears by singing his life story.

The third movie was special, because it was a reincarnation revenge saga about two brothers who are killed by a corrupt Thakur and who come back in their next life to avenge their own deaths (in retrospect it seems kind of unfair because their killers had already grown quite old when they returned). I loved this movie so much that I insisted on buying toy guns for my brother and myself so that we could pose in front of the mirror the way the heroes posed in the poster.

In 1994 came a movie that was a super-duper hit. Its songs stayed on the top of music charts for weeks and my family, my aunts, uncles, cousins, all wanted to see it. It was a long film, and it had its fair share of comedy, by the end of the movie I heard a weird sniffling sound in the theatre which I did not recognize.

I came back disappointed from the film, of the hundreds of characters in the three hour long movie, there was not a single villain. There were no guns fired, there were no explosions, just an ultra smart dog who was prudent enough not to swallow jewelry and paper.

For me an era of movies ended that day and I inadvertently (with the help of Zee Cinema) decided to headlong dive back to older movies, showing angry young men and dacoits with black tilaks on their foreheads.

But I will write about that later.

Friday, October 7, 2011

The Glorious Adventures of Ram and Shyam

‘Settle down, settle down, otherwise there would be no story.’ Papa would tell my brother and me, and we would quickly quiet down and wait in silence for the day’s tale. I knew that Papa was making an empty threat, because as much as we liked hearing stories, Papa liked telling them more. He often dipped into the Greek mythologies, so at the age of five I heard about Oedipus, without all the censored parts, and I heard the tales of a Big Huge Wooden horses in which Five Hundred soldiers fit easily and the na├»ve people who accepted that gift horse did not bother to look into its mouth. At that time, the Horse People were the heroes of the story for me. I learnt about Homer’s odyssey and also about cunning fire thieves who were tied to rocks but were always always rescued because in my father’s stories there were no sad endings. Papa told us about wily Atlas who shrugged easily and fooled a muscular hero in to carrying his load. And of course, because it was a father who told the tales, we also learnt a lesson from the story of the child who was given wings to fly, but did not heed his father’s advice (he too did not die, he was hospitalized).

At times Papa would tell us sad tales too, about people who got changed in to insects and were first ignored and then discarded by their families, Papa would never complete that particular story. If we did not drink milk we were told about Ashwatthama whose mother could not afford to buy milk for him, and who drank atta mixed with water. And if we stayed outside too long, Papa would tell us about ‘Nanhi Lal Chunni’ who encountered a wolf on her way to her grandma’s house, although we never managed to get scared because Papa made all stories funny, (except for the one with the man-insect), and all tales had swashbuckling heroes who arrived on the scene at the nick-of-the-time. And when somewhere on the news we heard that Superman had died our father assured us that he was not dead and had just gone for a vacation (And my brother would continue this tradition when he would tell me that Animal Farm too had a happy ending, because we only had the first part of the book and not the second part in which Horses came and rescued everyone and killed the pigs). Papa also told us stories of the Detective and the Doctor who lived on Baker’s Street. But these stories were nothing in comparison to the detective stories Papa used to spin up and tell us.

Each night we would eagerly wait for Papa to finish his post-dinner tea and tell us a story, and once every week we would be treated to the stories of ‘Ram aur Shyam’, kid detectives extraordinaire, who would battle enemies (usually smugglers of an unspecified item) twice their size and would come up trumps. They were residents of Lucknow (as we were at that time), and all the chase sequences happened in Hazrat Ganj. They ran their own detective agency, though who they did contract work for and whether they were ever paid is something Papa did not consider important to the story. And the best part was that Papa made all the stories incredibly funny, and my brother and I would laugh for days remembering the jokes, and telling it to our friends who seemed dumb to us because they could not understand the context and thus would not laugh.
With the advent of cable tv, and Sunday morning cartoons of Batmen and cars turning into robots, and nearly naked swordsmen with cars that could fly, our attention started shifting towards them and we became more demanding in the night time stories. We wanted gadgets and ‘electronic items’ and cars that had guns in the exhaust pipe which could be used to fool villains and badmashes of all varieties. Papa being a luddite when it came to storytelling did not like the idea of wars being fought in the stars (though he rented out video cassettes from ‘Sharma Library’ when we begged him to, because we wanted to see that film in which people fight with tubelights).
‘Why don’t you read Tintin and Asterix instead of wasting your time watching those cartoons?’ Papa said once, while bringing home comics four times the size of the Nagraj and Super Commando Dhruv and Crook Bond that we were used to. ‘But Papa, Tintin has Professor Calculus and Captain Haddock, Asterix has Getafix and Obelix, who do Ram and Shyam have?’
Papa instantly replied ‘This is the day a new character enters our story, let me tell you about Ram and Shyam’s uncle and mentor Professor Chakram.’
‘So did Professor Chakram built them gadgets?’
‘Yes, yes, and the first thing he built them was a computer called ChumuChumu.’ This was where our father won over us again, because any detective agency with a computer (although at that time we did not know what a computer can do apart from playing a game which involved eating dots, we being fed on western movies and cartoons thought a computer could do pretty much everything) was an agency worth its weight in gold. Professor Chakram built many gadgets for Ram and Shyam, a grappeling hook, magic pens with invisible ink, and a scooter with a water pistol fit on it which they used to chase criminals.

‘Wasn’t it a motorcycle?’ We would insist, but we would always be told that scooters are sturdy and dependable, while bikes are used by Gundas. ‘But Shah Rukh Khan rode a bike in Deewana!’
‘And you saw how that poor fellow skidded over those stairs!’
Our scooter riding heroes always knew the exact location of the criminals and could predict what they were doing with the aid of ChumuChumu, and Professor Chakram would invent something on the spot that would help the heroes fight them. Papa’s stories were better than Duck Tales and Tailspin put together, they packed more jokes and more adventures than what any writer could imagine on a good day. When our interest started waning again Papa took inspiration from countless 70s Detective movies and introduced the character of Monachu, the wily secretary of the young detectives who could hire clients and take on villains with equal ease.

I don’t remember at what exact age my brother and I ‘grew out’ the stories of Ram and Shyam (maybe at an age when we became plain idiots and did not know what was good for us), or maybe Papa got too tired of telling them to us. It is my lasting regret that Papa did not write them down and serialize them, they were the best stories that I have heard in my life, better than tales of soldiers running marathon distances, or of Russians named Danko who suffered from excessive heart burn, or of tiny people throwing rings in volcanoes. Those are the lost tales that I wish I can find some day again.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Looking back at the failed writings of a failed writer

Till a few months ago, I used to call myself a 'writer', and then I used to pause for effect. However, of late I have realized that I cannot write to save my life. And then I went to look for the route cause of this effect, I started to trace back all the uncomplete stories that I had written to see where exactly I went wrong. I dusted all my old notebooks and diaries to see how my writing had shaped or dissolved over the years.

And then I came across several unfinished masterpieces, which made me strike my face with an open palm with each page I turned. It would take a long time for me to write about them all, but I have to make a start somewhere.

I'll start with the solitary page of a 'Long Story' that I had planned to write, which had the title 'My Life In the US Marine' (for reasons that escape me at the moment, perhaps because at that time to me, the US Marine were Da Shit), the main character's name was Jimmy Nelson, and the story started with him sitting on a park bench watching some children play. All of a sudden a bearded guy approaches him and says 'Do you wish to be a part of the US Marines?', to which old Jim replies 'Why not?'

All this seemed to me at that time the standard recruitment procedure for the Marines, this attempt at spewing garbage ended with Jimmy boy accepting a few books which were 'required reading' to be a Marine. Perhaps overflowing with awesomeness, I decided to not continue writing this story, you know, when the power in your hand is too big to be controlled. The rest of the diary whose first page I had spoiled thus, was empty.

This was when I was in sixth, and one of the most half-baked productive times for me. Because, (and in this case I distinctively remember everything), I started writing a space adventure epic. Earth had been destroyed, and using something I wrote as a 'wormhole', one percent of the Earth's population had succesfully migrated to a planet called 'Carborundum'. (which, after Avatar's Pandora and Unobtainium, seems quite imaginative). The main character's name was Chuch Roosten, which means absolutely nothing at all. I am bad at names, I will explain this later.

Chuck Roosten starts his journey stranded at an obscure alien planet with a fascination (read : fetish) for triangles, where everything, beds, toilets. televisions are all triangular in shape and warm mango juice is the favourite drink.

I was really making good progress with this one, and I added enough detailing and space crafts and aliens to give George Lucas a hard on, but then I do not know why (I do not distinctly remember) I stopped writing the story, after writing around fifty A4 sized pages.

Then came a long long long time for which I was obsessed with The Godfather. Anyone with Cajones cannot read the Godfather and remain unimpressed. I thought this guy Puzo with the video game name was a good thing, and promptly read three more of his books (Omerta, The Last Don and The Fourth K, in that order) to realize that this guy Puzo with the video game name sucked, and that Godfather was in fact bleeding brilliant.

I decided that since a work of a seminal nature inspired by The Godfather had not been produced in India, it was my burden to do this. And so I started writing an untitled novel, about an industrialist who lived in the outskirts of Vadodara, and had the rather impressive name of 'Abhishek Raizada.' I borrowed this name from a friend, and read it aloud, if it does not strike you as the name of a man with influence, I do not know what will.

The one bit of this attempt that particularly interested/disgusted me was that of when a righteous Foreman working in a Candle making factory of Raizada industries, (Genco Oil, Raizada Candles...you see the connection) notices that a worker has not been coming to work by the amount of wax piling up near his work station. The Foreman then goes and investigates the dissappearance of the worker, and finds that he is being persecuted by a goon named Aslam. The righteous Foreman goes and battles Aslam, thereby killing him and paving his way to becoming a 'made-man'.

What irked me on reading it again was that instead of checking the damn attendance roster, this guy has to look at a pile of wax to check whether a worker is coming to work or not.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

7th and The Pink One

By Mishita Jethi


My baby brother fell sick when I was in the 7th grade. Real sick! Now the funny thing about a member of your family falling sick, and that too the little baby you love most in the world, is that you’re mostly in a state of denial. So when people around me used to ask me how he was doing, most of the times I felt like telling them, ‘Why, he’s fine. He’s just a little unwell and the doctors will fix him in a jiffy.’ Instead, I would end up giving them all a watery smile and mumble a few words, and walk away in brisk steps lest my eyes give away my real answer. I’m reminded of a particular incident as I lie down shaking up more than two decades worth of memories! I remember being extremely angry one day. I was all of 12 and refusing to understand that my parents needed to be in the hospital for days together because my brother had to be looked after. I was being troublesome and difficult. I rebuffed doing my homework, would not eat food or go do my own work-basically I was making the day worse for my dad, who had come back from the hospital as my mom went to be there. Finally my dad ordered me to change into my night clothes and go off to sleep. In particular defiance, I chose to put on a fancy t-shirt (something I was to wear mainly to parties) and came back to my dad’s room just to show him that I would not listen to him. And that’s when something happened which changed the way I looked at myself and my anger and fears. My dad came up to me and gathered me in his arms. He said, ‘I know you’re scared. So am I. But we can either choose to accept our fears and fight them, or continue ignoring them. And I can tell you that if we continue ignoring them, we’ll never really find out what we were really scared of.’

Years later, as I sit separated from that little kid (who has since then grown into a very loving young boy) I wonder what really went behind my state of denial? Why are most of us afraid to face our fears when it comes to things most close to our hearts? I am yet to find an answer to that question. But the question itself has manifested in me thinking a lot about the feelings that we keep bottled deep inside ourselves. I have that pink t-shirt kept safely even today. Its no longer fancy. It no longer can be worn in parties. It is close to wearing out fully. But I’ll save it for as long as I can. I’ll probably give it to my daughter someday when she’s scared of thunderstorms or ghosts in her closet. And I’ll teach her that its ok to be scared because if we accept our fears, we can fight them off. And if we’re unable to fight them alone, they’re will always be a hand to wrap us close, and to give us that hope, that all will be well! It will be. I just know it. Till then, I’ll wear the pink t-shirt again and regain some of the hope that I’ve lost in the last few months!

Sunday, April 25, 2010

The World's Shortest Love Story

One fine day she called me up and said, "Listen there is something very important that I have to tell you, and I have to tell it to you right now."

I was all ears. I stated this.

She continued, "The thing is, I have been thinking for a while...you know, about you and me. And..."

This sent alarm bells ringing, I racked my brains searching for anything that I might have done in the past few days that may have impacted my friendship with her negatively, I got lost in thoughts as the voice on the cellphone continued. "So this is final, and I am going to just come straight out with it and tell you, I love you. There, see, I said it." She paused for me to react, unfortunately I had been too lost in my thoughts to properly hear what she was saying, she shouted, "Hello! Are you even listening to me?"

I said, "Yes, yes, of course. And...you were saying."

"I said...you know, I said I love you."

My head swam for a while with a heady feeling, I held out a hand to the nearest wall for support, it took me some time to realize that she was still speaking, "Aren't you going to say anything?"

I paused, reflected and then said, "Well...of course, I love you too!"

And then we had a fairly longish chat which was full of happiness and future prospects and chorus songs in the background, when I remembered, "Er...what about that guy who claims to be your boyfriend? I mean, how does he figure."

She shouted, "Haven't you been listening to me? He doesn't matter to me anymore, you get that? I am through, I am over. I am...wait a minute, my cell phone is showing a 'call wait', oh hell...it's that bastard, let me get through with him and I will call you back, okay?"

I heard the familiar beep-beep one hears after being put on hold. I paced around for the next half an hour trying to keep my emotions in check, and trying not to think about what she would be talking with her ex about. Perhaps something vitriolic.

She called again, and said in the same firm and resolute tone of voice as before, "Listen, it's all over."

"Between you and him?" I asked, smiling to myself.

"No, between you and me, I am going back to him."

"What! How can it be over between you and me? I mean, we have hardly started!"

"I don't know about that," she said, "I am going back to him. He has convinced me so."

"But...we are such good friends!"

"Oh yeah, about that. So I guess we should never talk again, I am ending my friendship with you. Please don't bother me by calling me again, okay?" And thus she unceremoniously cut the phone.

I chose the same spot as before on the wall to lean and support my frame. I sighed loudly to extract sympathy from friends passing by. One of them stopped and asked me, "Is any thing wrong?"

I nodded, sighing again. "Tell me, what happened?" He asked.

I said, "I have just been a part of The World's Shortest Love Story." And I proceeded to tell him the details, it did not take long, I was through in a couple of minutes. My friend said, "But that's so cool...I mean, it's awesome! Isn't it?"

And then I realized he was right, it was totally awesome.